As the government begins to encourage UK workers back into offices this month, the current COVID-19 pandemic will change our work habits for the foreseeable future. So what could post lockdown workplaces look like?
During what has been an unprecedented 2020 so far, there is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world to its core.
Businesses have been forced to temporarily close, public transport has been restricted to essential journeys only and schools across the country will be only be just re-opening their doors heading into next month.
The situation has taken a huge dent out of UK business income, with reports suggesting that Britain’s economy is likely to suffer from the most damage due to the COVID-19 outbreak when compared to any other country in the developed world.
Reports such as these and official figures from experts has prompted the UK to quickly respond after the lockdown period, with many office-based businesses now slowly re-introducing employees back to their premises.
The workplace as we knew it before the outbreak however could dramatically change to meet new standards and regulations that have been set in response to combating and containing the COVID-19 virus.
So, what could post lockdown workplaces look like?
The Death of the Tea Round?
A recent study created by health and safety experts Citation has detailed a few of the key changes and additions we can start to expect in the post lockdown workplace.
Their findings introduce new routines, the possible extinction of office traditions and adaptations to the environment that further ensure the safety of workers.
Some of the key changes highlighted are:
• Image recognition technology and thermometer checks to spot potential COVID-19 symptoms before staff enter and exit the workplace.
• A ban on tea/coffee rounds to prevent the risk of cross-contamination.
• Moving team meetings/conferences to outside the office, such as in public spaces likes parks or outside coffee shops.
• New floor plans that comply to social distancing measures in spaces such as break out areas, meeting rooms and toilets.
• Restructured shift patterns to lessen and control the amount of workers in the office at any given time.
• The enforced use of face masks when leaving desks and walking around other areas of the premises.
• Staggered lunch and break periods for workers to avoid unnecessary interactions with other colleagues.
• Regular access to hand sanitisers through the introduction of hygiene stations to eliminate the passing of germs and harmful bacteria between workers.
Expanding on some of the listed changes, Gillian McAteer, head of employment at Citation notes:
“Businesses may need to implement a number of creative measures in order to enforce hygiene, safety and social distancing in the office.
It could also require them to entirely re-think whole areas of their workplace, including break areas, toilets and meeting rooms.”
Taking into account the rise of homeworking over the lockdown period, she adds:
“Most employees will continue to work from home and may only come into the office to complete tasks that cannot be done remotely.
In instances where staff will be required in the office, however, they should expect big changes to how their workspace looked prior to March this year.”
How Can Employees Adapt to Post Lockdown Workplaces?
While these new revisions and practices will come as a certain shock and create urgency for many businesses planning to re-open their workspaces, there is also the effect drastic changes such as these will have on workers too.
As Evelyn Cotter, founder of SEVEN Career Coaching comments, the sudden shift from homeworking back to returning to a physical workplace could result in an increased sense of anxiety amongst workers.
“Going from the safety of your home space – which you’ve adapted to working a living in so intensively for the past few months – back out into the big bad world, will naturally create some sort of anxiety.”
“Throw in the pandemic conditions and multi-layered uncertainty, and it’s really a perfect soup for even the most tough-skinned of us to feel anxious.”
With this, Cotter highlights that to conquer these fears and prepare for returning to post lockdown workplaces, workers should look to embrace a ‘growth mindset’.
“Everything is an opportunity for growth and everything is beneficial to your development; find the positives and remind yourself that whatever pace you’ve moving back at, it’s ok for you and you’re doing your best.
“Many people are experiencing a huge lull in personal confidence and motivation.
Seek opportunities to try new things and talk to new people, and your confidence will naturally grow.”
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